The First Presidency announced a few years ago a new achievement program for the young men of the Church. Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God was created to help young men prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, the temple endowment, a full-time mission, marriage, and fatherhood through setting and achieving worthy goals. On September 28, 2001, the First Presidency sent a letter to priesthood leaders stating: “We desire all young men to strive to earn the Eagle Scout [in the United States and Canada] and Duty to God Awards. We desire all young women to strive to earn the Young Womanhood Recognition. As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord.”
In this fall’s Young Men open house and workshops, as well as in other upcoming training, the Young Men general presidency will be emphasizing the important role parents and quorum leaders play in helping young men reap the promised blessings of this program.
As I have traveled throughout the world, I have been pleased with the progress young men have made in the program. However, there are still many young men and their leaders who know very little about the program. Yet our youth are hungry for opportunities to achieve and develop their talents and abilities.
I was recently in Vladivostok, on the east coast of Russia. As I sat on the stand at the beginning of a youth and adult fireside, I noticed a young man in the second row immersed in a Duty to God guidebook for priests. I was thrilled and thought to myself: “Marvelous! Seventeen time zones away from Salt Lake City, and Duty to God is alive and well.” When I rose to speak, I asked him what his name was.
“Gere” was the reply.
“How old are you?”
I then moved to my real inquiry: “I noticed that you have been reading a book. What book have you been reading?”
Quick came the reply: “I don’t know.”
“Well, where did you get it?”
“Out in the hall just before the meeting” was his reply.
Immediately, as Gere spoke, Dimitri, a young man on the front row, jumped up, left the room, quickly returned with his own copy, and began to read. They were so ready for opportunities to grow.
The program is intended to be individual, quorum, and family oriented. This means that many of the requirements for each of the deacon, teacher, and priest awards may be accomplished at home—and signed off by a young man’s parents. Thus, the first place a young man and his parents should become acquainted with the program and the guidebook is in the home. Let’s see just how this might happen.
The Visit from Priesthood Leaders
My friend Dan is 11 years old, and soon he will be ordained a deacon. Shortly before he becomes a deacon, Dan will receive a visit from the deacons quorum presidency in his ward and either a member of the bishopric or his deacons quorum adviser to welcome him into the quorum. They will explain to Dan and his parents all the wonderful things that Dan will be able to do when he receives the Aaronic Priesthood and is ordained a deacon, such as passing the sacrament, collecting fast offerings, being involved in service projects, and attending priesthood meeting and Mutual.
They will probably also share with Dan the wonderful blessing it is to bear the Aaronic Priesthood, which was restored by John the Baptist when he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River and said, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (D&C 13:1).
They will bring Dan his own copy of the deacon’s Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God guidebook. They will explain to Dan what the program is and what it is to accomplish. They might have Dan read the promise of the First Presidency to each deacon who works on and achieves the Duty to God Award:
“The Lord believes in you and has an important mission for you to do. He will help you as you turn to Him in prayer. Listen for the promptings of the Spirit. Obey the commandments. Make and keep covenants that will prepare you for the temple. Work with your parents and leaders as you set goals and strive to achieve them. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment as you fulfill your duty and prepare for the exciting challenges of the future.” 1
In the Home
Since many of the requirements can and should be fulfilled in the home, the quorum adviser will suggest that Dan’s father and mother become familiar with the requirements. Dan’s parents may receive a Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth (item no. 36415), which explains their role in helping Dan. A number of the requirements (especially those in the “Family Activities” and “Spiritual Development” sections) are appropriate for family home evenings or for Sunday and will help Dan keep the Sabbath day holy.
His parents will want to know, for example, that one requirement is for Dan to give four family home evening lessons during his time as a deacon. They can arrange for him to learn how to prepare and give those lessons. They will also want to know that Dan (and possibly the entire family) will review and rememorize the Articles of Faith. Dan also needs to prepare at least two meals for his family, fill out a four-generation pedigree chart, complete a service project, develop the habit of reading the scriptures daily, and read the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet (item no. 36550) and discuss it with his parents or priesthood leader.
As Dan’s parents learn about the program, they will know how they can help and support him in accomplishing its requirements. What a great thing it would be for Dan’s father to review Dan’s progress toward his deacon certificate in father’s interviews with his son. During these interviews it might be helpful for Dan’s father to ask: How are these goals helping prepare you for your mission? How do they help prepare you for the temple? Tell me how your testimony has grown as you have read the Book of Mormon. How do you think your efforts in accomplishing your Duty to God goals are helping strengthen our family and helping you be a better son? How are your efforts preparing you to be a husband and father? (In families without a father in the home, this is a wonderful time for a mother to talk with her son about his goals and dreams and to discuss these same questions.)
In the Quorum
Dan’s quorum president may mention to him that some of the requirements are quorum based and that quorum activities will be planned to help Dan fulfill these requirements. The president may also review Dan’s progress with him periodically and may check with Dan’s parents now and then to see how the quorum can help. The quorum presidencies and advisers will also plan Mutual activities to help him complete the goals leading to his Duty to God Award. The bishopric can also use their regularly scheduled interviews to review Dan’s progress. They might even have an adult in the ward or branch, possibly the secretary to the Young Men presidency, help track each young man’s progress in the program.
Certificates and Advancement
When Dan has accomplished all the requirements for the deacon certificate, he will have an interview with the bishop to review his progress and sign the “Completion of Duty to God” page at the end of his deacon’s booklet. Dan can then receive his deacon Duty to God certificate.
Shortly before Dan becomes a teacher and then again when he is ready to become a priest, he may receive a similar visit from his quorum leaders to receive his teacher (and then priest) Duty to God guidebook. When he has received his deacon, teacher, and priest certificates, he is eligible to receive his Duty to God medallion. And though that, in itself, is a wonderful accomplishment, the most important result of Dan’s efforts will be the personal growth he has experienced in earning the award—personal growth that will help him be better prepared to receive the ordinances of the temple, to serve a full-time mission, and to be a faithful husband and father.
If you are a parent of a young man in the Aaronic Priesthood, I encourage you to carefully study the appropriate Fulfilling Our Duty to God guidebook, as well as the Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth. Discuss the requirements and purposes of the program with your son, and help him set appropriate goals that will challenge him. You will note that the requirements listed in the guidebooks may be modified according to the individual circumstances, interests, and needs of the young man—with the approval of parents and Aaronic Priesthood leaders.
A Window of Opportunity
With the challenges that are bombarding young men today—Satan’s attempts to weaken them and lead them astray—there has never been a greater need for the blessings that come through achieving the Duty to God Award. A young man who is dedicated to reading the scriptures daily, memorizing the Articles of Faith, and accomplishing the other requirements will not only be more focused on that which is good and right and true, but he will be more prepared to shun evil.
When I was a teenager in Mutual, we learned a scripture that was our theme for the year: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32).
The window of opportunity with our young men is not open for very long and passes so swiftly. Today, as the scripture teaches, is the day to perform our labors. The First Presidency has challenged the young men in the Church: “You live in a day of great challenges and opportunities. You have been called to make a difference in the world. As a son of God, with the power of the Aaronic Priesthood, you can be a wonderful force for good.” 2
May God bless each parent and leader of young men in the Aaronic Priesthood to begin today to understand the Duty to God program and to help our young men achieve the objectives of this program.
Checklist for Parents
Get a copy of the Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth (item no. 36415) as well as the appropriate Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God guidebook (item nos. 36412 [deacon], 36413 [teacher], 36414 [priest]). If you don’t already have a guidebook, you may wish to show this article to your bishop or branch president or to your son’s Aaronic Priesthood adviser and ask when you might expect a visit. (These guidebooks are available at no charge at local distribution centers and through www.ldscatalog.com.)
Become familiar with each of the requirements for the appropriate Duty to God certificate.
With your son, review the requirements he has completed, and help him select those he still needs to accomplish. You may find the Duty to God Achievement Record (item no. 36720) helpful. Remember, you can modify the requirements or write your own to meet the needs of some young men.
Help your son plan when he will work on and complete each goal. Discuss how you and the family can help him. You might also discuss how each of these goals will strengthen the family and help prepare your son to become an effective missionary.
Set a regular time to review progress. Have your son keep his guidebook in a safe place. Remember that young men need praise when they have accomplished a goal. Be generous, specific, and sincere in your praise.
Repeat steps 3 to 5 above. Have fun working with your son as he strives to complete his requirements.
Scouting and Duty to God
Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God is an approved priesthood achievement program that, along with Scouting in the United States and Canada, helps prepare a young man to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, receive temple ordinances, and serve a worthy, full-time mission. Many Scouting requirements also fulfill Duty to God requirements.
Both programs become more effective in strengthening young men when leaders and parents understand the programs and can help young men set goals to accomplish both the Eagle Scout Award and the Duty to God Award.
Where Scouting is available, priesthood and Young Men leaders are encouraged to become adequately trained and familiar with the requirements for Scouting awards as well as the Duty to God Award so both programs can be prayerfully applied in meeting the needs of the youth.
These two programs also provide ideal opportunities for parents (whether members of the Church or not) to become involved in their sons’ activities.
To Home Teachers
Sometimes a young man of Aaronic Priesthood age is the only member of the Church in his family. In such a case or in single-parent families, home teachers can help support a young man in his priesthood duties and in accomplishing the requirements for the Duty to God Award.